Monday, January 22, 2007

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson yesterday joined a crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s 2008 presidential nomination, citing his experience on foreign policy and as a Western state’s chief executive.

“I will outwork anybody. I’m a governor,” Mr. Richardson said during an appearance yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” “Governors have good records in being elected presidents because we balance budgets, we deal with health care, with education.”

John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory is the last White House triumph by a sitting senator.

Despite his deep resume, which also includes turns as a congressman, energy secretary and U.N. ambassador, Mr. Richardson’s announcement was overwhelmed on yesterday’s talk shows by the discussion focused on Saturday’s presidential announcement by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

“I believe I can be competitive in raising money,” Mr. Richardson said when asked by host George Stephanopoulos whether he could compete with Mrs. Clinton’s fundraising organization. “A lot of people give speeches about these issues. I’ve actually done it,” he said.

Mr. Richardson also sought to play down speculation that he is secretly campaigning to run for vice president.

“I’m not interested in being vice president. I’ve got a better job as governor of New Mexico. If I don’t get the nomination, I’ll come back and be governor,” he said.

The recently re-elected governor, who is one of the few members of his party to get an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, said he thinks Democrats will warm to his candidacy once they get to know his issues, which include favoring a redeployment of American forces from Iraq.

“The surge that the president wants is going to cause more sectarian violence. And right now, we should be deploying those troops that America has in Iraq, we should redeploy them in Afghanistan, where the Taliban are a threat and terrorism is a threat.”

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and a possible 2008 rival, said he sees Mrs. Clinton as his party’s White House front-runner.

“I think she’s incredibly formidable and has got to be the front-runner and the odds-on pick right now,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman told “Fox News Sunday.”

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,000 released yesterday showed that Mrs. Clinton was the favorite of 41 percent of Democrats, far ahead of the 17 percent backing Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and the 11 percent who support former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. The poll was taken from Tuesday to Friday and has a 4 percentage point margin of error.

“But this is a marathon. There’s a long way to go,” said Mr. Biden, who already has announced his own presidential campaign. “We’re a lifetime away.”

Another potential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said yesterday he would run only “as a last resort.” Mr. Gingrich had previously said he would seek the White House only if no other Republican had emerged as a clear front-runner by the fall.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace told Mr. Gingrich that “you sound as if you think about running for president as a last resort, not as a first resort?”

“Exactly,” Mr. Gingrich answered. “I mean, nobody’s ever said it quite that way, but you’re right.”

Mr. Gingrich also praised Mrs. Clinton’s political skills and dismissed claims that she is too polarizing a figure to win.

“I don’t care what anyone else says — she and her husband are the most formidable pair of politicians in America,” the Georgia Republican said. “She is ahead in every poll. She can raise far more resources than any other Democrat. … And you’d have to say, given those assets, that she has a six-out-of-10 chance or better of being the Democratic nominee.”

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